What the Tories are promising the design industry

With the Conservatives set to lead the next Government at Westminster, we take a look at what they have promised to do for the design industry.


Conservative leader David Cameron
Conservative leader David Cameron

The manifesto pledges


  • The Conservative Party Manifesto hailed the UK’s creative industries as Britain’s fastest-growing economic sector, contributing nearly £77 billion a year.


  • The Conservatives say they will continue to support the creative sector through tax reliefs such as tax credits for children’s television and will aim to protect intellectual property and tackle piracy.


  • The party says it plans to invest more than £100 billion in infrastructure over the next parliament – with £790m million going to extending superfast broadband to rural areas.


  • With regards to business, the Conservatives promise “the most competitive business tax regime in the G20” and point to their moves to cut corporation tax from 28 to 20 per cent and extend by 100 per cent the Small Business Tax Rate Relief. The party says it will conduct a “major review” of business rates by the end of the year to ensure that “by 2017 they properly reflect the structure of our modern economy”.


  • For small businesses, the Conservatives say they will treble the Start Up Loans programme and aim for small businesses to receive one-third of central Government procurement contracts.


  • The party also pledges to bring in a Small Business Conciliation Service, to mediate in disputes such as late payment.


The statement


Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy under the last administration, told Design Week:


“Design is one of our most accessible creative industries. It impacts on our daily lives in so many ways  – from the transport we take, to the cutlery we use to the clothes we wear. The UK is a world leader in design. The Monocle Survey on soft power, which is about a nation’s power in terms of creative things and innovation, put Britain at number one.


Latest figures show the design sector has been one of the highest performing under [the previous] Conservative-led government. In 2013, 177,000 people in the creative economy were employed in design and designer fashion, up by almost a fifth from 2011. Even more impressively, this group had the largest percentage increase in employment in the creative industries in the same period.

It gets better.


The Gross Value Added (GVA) for the design sector was around £3.1bn in 2013, and observed the largest GVA increase (+28%) of all creative industry sectors from 2012-2013.


Government takes design seriously. In 2013 our single domain GOV.UK won the coveted Design Museum Design of the Year Award. The team behind this, the Government Digital Service, is estimated to make savings of £1.7bn a year by making all Government services digital by default. Building on this success, we’re increasing digital capability across government and hiring designers in many other departments, something a future Conservative government would seek to build upon.


On skills, we have announced £20m to match industry investment for creative industry skills, which will assist in the development of the designers of the future. The funding will come through the Employer Ownership of Skills pilot following a successful bid by creative industry employers led by Channel 4 and skills organisation Creative Skillset.


Our commitment to the design sector is clear. While these figures paint an encouraging picture, we cannot be complacent. We can only continue to have a robust design sector with a strong economy and a long-term economic plan – something only the Conservatives can offer.”


The Chancellor’s views


Talking to Design Week last year, former Chancellor George Osborne told us: “[Design is] a very diverse sector with diverse issues – there isn’t a single instrument you can use to tackle them.


“We’ve been able to support design and the creative industries through various mechanisms such as tax credits and initiatives such as with the Design Museum [which will be able to open its permanent collection to the public for free]. We also want to make sure that design is a part of the learning environment – we want to recognise that Britain has a particular talent for design.”


What Labour would have done


The Labour party had made a concerted effort to court the creative industries vote, with former Labour leader Ed Miliband promising to put art and creativity “at the heart” of a future Labour government.


Among the pledges Labour made were:




  • To establish a committee for art, culture and creativity that would report directly to the Prime Minister. This would comprise practitioners and decision-makers from across the country.


  • An overhaul of the creative education system to make creative subjects central to school rankings. Miliband said: “Under a Labour Government we will build the need for creative education into Ofsted inspections.”


  • The Labour manifesto described creativity as “the powerhouse of a prosperous economy” and featured pledges to increase the number of apprenticeships in the creative industries and to “guarantee a universal entitlement to a creative education” for children.
Hide Comments (4)Show Comments (4)
  • Kathryn Hughes May 8, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Neither Tories nor Labour mention reinstating position of Design Council or strengthening support for??

  • Anthony Browne May 9, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    If the Tories are so keen to get behind the creative industries, why are they stifling school children buy forcing them down the English, Maths, History and Sciences route? Surely we need to nurture creativity at school and throughout further education in order to allow the next and future generations of artists and designers to flourish?

    • andrew laverick May 15, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Agreed, last I readDesign Technology was going to be taken from Secondary school as so few kids are taking it up in their final years now. Also some primary/first schools hardly do any creative projects at all

  • Stuart Ritson May 11, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Your reaction to this must surely be shaped by your view of “The Design Industry”.

    At one end of the spectrum you could say the design industry is simply a tool of consumer capitalism. At the other you could say it’s part of a wider creative cultural output that includes art, music, architecture, literature, fashion and so on.

    To an extent it’s head vs heart, and where on that spectrum you sit will likely shape what you think about the Conservative approach to our sector.

    The Tories promote big business, free trade and minimal state interference. They say free market competition encourages innovation and welfare encourages complacency. It’s survival of the fittest and the cream rises to the top.

    So if your bread and butter is corporate work and your motivations are purely financial, I imagine the Tory approach seems fairly agreeable. If you work hard and do a good job for the right price, you should prosper.

    If you think the reach of design extends beyond the mechanics of capitalism then the outlook might be darker.

    What is often derided as “welfare” is a social safety net that allows us the breathing room to experiment, to find a voice and develop as creatives. When the safety net is removed (within that safety net I include the NHS) our lives become more precarious and we are forced to be more risk averse.

    We end up in a situation where the only people capable of taking on the risks inherent in the pushing of creative boundaries are those already sat on enough wealth to not have to worry about going hungry. The rest of us have no choice but to stay safe.

    As mentioned in a comment above, education is also an important issue. In the past these pages have covered the squeeze on design technology education in schools. James Dyson has been particularly vocal on the issue, claiming that the lack of investment in design education today is going to cost us heavily tomorrow.

    The arts and humanities are facing the same squeeze, and a lot of effort is currently being poured into the recently founded Arts Emergency (http://www.arts-emergency.org/) by those wishing to combat the issue.

    For its full potential to be reached, we must avoid the arts and creative industries becoming the sole domain of the incumbent wealthy. It must be open and accessible to everyone. Great ideas aren’t inherited. They can come from anywhere.

    I guess my personal feelings are clear in the weighting of my comment. I think culture and commerce are essentially at odds with one another, and the most successful and respected creatives tend to be those who manage to find a sweet spot somewhere between the two.

    Similarly, a healthy society is one that recognises and maintains a healthy tension between culture and commerce. When the odds are stacked too far in the favour of one, the other suffers. We need both to prosper.

    Alan Fletcher said;

    “Unfortunately the very nature of business tends to stifle creativity as the very competition it fosters establishes one of the biggest blocks: the fear of making a mistake.”

    That fear of making a mistake has increased in recent years, and the current forecast suggests it’s a trend set to continue. Whether you think this is good or bad for the design industry depends on what you think it is here to achieve. Are we culture, or are we commerce?

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